Outlook for Tiwai smelter looks brighter as aluminium prices surge

As  rising   inflation  unsettles  domestic  businesses, New Zealand’s  export   economy  – in contrast – is on   a  roll.  It  faces  its  own  problems, particularly  with rising shipping charges, and  delays  in  reaching markets.  But, as  Point  of  Order  noted yesterday,  the  dairy  industry  is  winning  record prices in global markets, and other  food  exports  are also  in  strong  demand.

Another  stand-out    is  aluminium,  which  last year spiked  up 62% to $US2934 to October . In recent weeks  it has  strengthened again, topping $US3000.

At  this  level Rio Tinto, owner  of  the  smelter  at  Tiwai Point,  will  be having  second  thoughts about closing  it.  The  smelter,  which  employs  about  600 workers  (plus  another 2000  indirectly), extended  its  electricity contract for  power from Meridian’s  Manapouri’s  generators (said  to be  the  cheapest  electricity in smelting alumina in the  world)  only to 2024.

If  Rio  Tinto  “walks”, many  of  its  competitors  might  step  in, if  aluminium prices remain  anywhere near  this  elevated  level.

Continue reading “Outlook for Tiwai smelter looks brighter as aluminium prices surge”

The case for Air NZ focusing more on its freight operations

New Zealand’s vulnerability in terms of air and shipping services has been among the ominous consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Air NZ has parked its fleet of eight Boeing 777-200 and seven Boeing 777-300 and reckons they will never fly them again. All its international services are based on its Boeing 787-9 with the -10 on order. These are providing limited passenger and freight services.

Pure freighter services are provided by Qantas with its cargo Boeing 767s while other carriers offer ad hoc Boeing 747-400 cargo flights.

Shipping is even more compromised with limited and increasingly expensive services to North America and Asia.

In the US the situation is more dire because of the notoriously inefficient and slow-moving container ports on the US west coast.  The east coast is much better but the shipping times via the Panama raise costs for shippers. Continue reading “The case for Air NZ focusing more on its freight operations”

Help is promised for Southland after Rio Tinto pulls plug but money more immediately will be pumped into West Coast rail

Latest from the Beehive –

Northland was missing from the regions to benefit from government announcements in the past 24 or so hours.  Southland, on the other hand, is being promised government support for its economy in the aftermath of Rio Tinto’s decision to close its operations at Tiwai Point.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson pledged:

“As we have done in Taranaki, we will support a just transition to more job opportunities. We know the strengths of Southland and we want to build on them in areas such as agriculture, aquaculture and manufacturing. There is also an opportunity to support other energy intensive projects like green hydrogen and data centres.”

But the only figure in the joint press statement with a dollar sign in front related to a sum of money the government expects Rio Tinoto to cough up.

Energy Minister Megan Woods said she wanted to make clear that

“ … the Government expects Rio Tinto to meet their obligations for clean-up of the site (an estimated $256 million) and do the right thing on the dross.” .

Good luck with that. Continue reading “Help is promised for Southland after Rio Tinto pulls plug but money more immediately will be pumped into West Coast rail”

POAL – Aucklanders (not the government) should decide its future

Barrie Saunders writes…

One of the 1984-90 Lange-Douglas government’s most successful reforms is now at serious risk, because of a self-serving political campaign by NZ First, aided and abetted by others driving their own agendas.

In 1988 the Port Companies Act came into operation, which commercialised New Zealand’s ports and required them to operate as a “successful business”.   At the same time the failed New Zealand Ports Authority was disbanded and harbour regulatory functions were left with local government.

The reforms worked extraordinarily well as the port companies became very efficient and cost-effective.  Some including the ports of Auckland, Tauranga, Timaru, Napier, Lyttelton and Bluff, ended up at various stages with private shareholdings, but the local authorities typically held the majority of shares, and some partially privatised were later bought back.  Undoubtedly the private shareholding improved the performance of port companies. Continue reading “POAL – Aucklanders (not the government) should decide its future”